The vastness of a new year lies ahead of us. 2018, in all its sprawling hope and wonder, offers us the chance to renew old promises to ourselves and try some new habits on for size. Conversing with several clients about their goals encouraged me to reevaluate my own resolutions. After all, we often learn about ourselves through the clients we have the opportunity to work with.
I speak about my role-juggling act often. Many of you know that I am a teacher, a student, and a therapist. I am also a partner, daughter, parent, friend, peer, and colleague. Clearly I wear many hats, as we all do. In an effort to get through each week or semester I sometimes attend to just a few of these identities at a time. Sometimes I lose sight of the other meaningful parts of my life. Sometimes I lose sight of myself.
In academic settings, we are taught that the best lessons come from teachers and textbooks. We certainly benefit from the foundational knowledge this provides, however, my therapist identity has also grown in surprising places. You see, I listen and attend to others’ stories, and I help people craft new narratives. These client stories are expressed in session, but stories can also be expressed in many ways. Poignant, powerful expression happens through conversation, music, art, and literature. My partner and I share stories over wine at the end of a busy day. I will often read a story and find myself pulled into the raw emotion a character experiences. When I grab coffee with a friend and hear, “Oh my gosh! I have to tell you what happened,” I am immediately pulled into her world.
Our stories make us human, and sharing stories is at the core of therapy. If this is true, then how can I connect with others' stories if I am not simultaneously crafting my own?
Theory books and skills practices are key to my knowledge as a therapist, though my passion and empathy will grow as I engage more in my life. The joy and connectedness I feel in my world nourishes my work, and this energy I experience in my work feeds back into my personal life. Getting coffee with a friend, being home in time for dinner with my family to hear their stories from the day; these small, pleasurable stolen moments create the most important narratives in our lives. If I am to honor my client's narratives with fervor, compassion, and attention, then I must make the time to honor my own.
We often feel guilty, thinking that if we attend to the leisure parts of our life then we are neglecting our professional growth. Time is precious, so should time be wasted on frivolity when it could be better used somewhere else? I am learning (slowly, but surely) that being present and engaged in all aspects of my life, from relationships to self-care, is an important investment. This is anything but frivolous or self-indulgent. Attending to all of my identities makes me feel whole and secure. It is certainly a work in progress for me, but it is something I am committing to in my life.
My personal and professional goal in 2018 is to show up more to my own life. How will you show up to your life in 2018?
© Megha Pulianda